Individual accolades finally started to materialize for the Kings after last season. Drew Doughty won his first Norris Trophy, an award given to the NHL’s best defenseman, and center Anze Kopitar took home two awards, the Selke Trophy (best defensive forward) and the Lady Byng Trophy (best combination of sportsmanship and ability). Plus Jonathan Quick was a Vezina Trophy (top goaltender) finalist.
Now, the trick is to merge the individual with larger team success. Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2014, the second time in three seasons, the Kings have played five playoff games, winning one in last season’s first-round loss to the San Jose Sharks.
It is almost a race against the clock, to see if they can manage to capitalize with Kopitar, Doughty, center Jeff Carter and Quick still in their prime.
Following are projected lines, defensive pairings and goalies:
Line 1: LW Devin Setoguchi 10, C Anze Kopitar 11, RW Dustin Brown 23
Step up if you predicted this as the No. 1 line: the current captain (Kopitar), the former captain (Brown) and a winger (Setoguchi) who last played a game in the NHL on Nov. 22, 2014.
Line 2: LW Teddy Purcell 9, C Jeff Carter 77, RW Tyler Toffoli 73
This might be a fleeting alliance, changing when Tanner Pearson completes his suspension. Toffoli led the NHL in plus-minus last season and is poised to improve on his 31-goal performance in 2015-16.
Line 3: LW Dwight King 71, C Nic Dowd 26, RW Trevor Lewis 22
Lewis is valued for his versatility. Two members of this line, King and Dowd, were not on the opening-night roster last season. King (broken foot) was limited to 47 games and Dowd was in the minors, in Ontario.
Line 4: LW Kyle Clifford 13, C Andy Andreoff 15, RW Jordan Nolan 74
Suffice to say this will be the definition of a grinding, hard-hitting line. The three forwards combined for 11 goals last season, eight by Andreoff.
How does Doughty follow his Norris Trophy-winning season? In any event, it will be entertaining to see what he tries to do for an encore.
Defense 2: Brayden McNabb 3, Alec Martinez 27
The worth of Martinez to the Kings was on full display when he was injured in the first-round playoff loss last season.
Defense 3: Derek Forbort 24, Matt Greene 2
Forbort appeared in 14 games last season, 11 more than Greene, who suffered through an injury-marred campaign and willed himself back into the mix.
Goalies: Jonathan Quick 32, Jeff Zatkoff 37
Last season: Quick led the league in terms of minutes played — a whopping 4,034 minutes — and appeared in 68 games. With a condensed schedule, because of the NHL’s new bye week, those numbers will be hard to approach, even with Darryl Sutter as the Kings’ coach.
Spares: Tanner Pearson doesn’t fit the definition of spare, not with 15 goals and 36 points last season. But he won’t be in the lineup until Oct. 18 at Minnesota because of a suspension received for an illegal hit to the head of the Edmonton Oilers’ Brandon Davidson in an exhibition. Center Nick Shore (undisclosed injury) has been cleared and resumed practicing this week. Other extras: Defenseman Tom Gilbert is a competent puck mover and passer. The oft-injured Marian Gaborik will start the season on injured reserve, having suffered a serious foot injury in the World Cup of Hockey.
Special teams: Last season, the Kings ranked eighth on the power play and 15th on the penalty kill.
Who’s new: Zatkoff, signed as a free agent in July. Purcell was another free-agent signing, along with Gilbert. Setoguchi made the most of his professional tryout and agreed to a one-year, two-way contract Tuesday at the NHL minimum.
Who’s gone: Heart-and-soul power-forward Milan Lucic landed with a division rival, the Oilers. Backup goalie Jhonas Enroth, who appeared in 16 games last season, is now the backup in Toronto, signing as a free agent. Vinny Lecavalier retired. Defensemen Luke Schenn and Jamie McBain signed as free agents with the Arizona Coyotes, and Kris Versteeg reached a contract agreement with the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.